RIVERSIDE (STMW) — A west suburban man was charged with theft after authorities uncovered an elaborate gasoline-stealing ring involving two men who would sell the stolen petrol at gas stations and vacant lots on Chicago’s West Side.

Darius Williams, 35, was charged with theft after Riverside police launched an investigation into the possibility he was involved in widespread gasoline thefts, Riverside police said Saturday in a statement.

Officers arrested Williams Friday outside the Bridgeview courthouse, where he made an appearance for a similar gasoline theft charge from Evergreen Park, police said.

After confessing to the stealing gas in Riverside, Williams, of the 400 block of Irvine in Hillside, was charged with misdemeanor gasoline theft, police said.

Police say they launched the investigation on January 20th, after a North Riverside officer witnessed Williams flee a gas station with a pump nozzle and hose dangling from the back of his SUV that evening.

After reviewing station security camera footage, police realized Williams and a partner — identified only as “Mike the gas man” — went to great lengths to steal gas from the 7-11 station at West 26th Street and South Harlem Avenue, the release states.

Williams said “he and another individual known as ‘Mike the gas man’ conceived this plan to steal gasoline and then sell it on the West side of Chicago,” Riverside police Chief Thomas Weitzel said in the statement. “They would both go to gas stations in Chicago or abandoned parking lots near service stations in Chicago and offer to sell up to 5 gallons of gasoline for $10.”

In the security footage, “Mike the gas man” is seen pulling up to a pump, disassembling the outer housing and disconnecting the device that regulates the amount of gas pumped and how much money is charged, police said.

After filling his vehicle, “Mike the gas man” drove off and Williams pulled in front of the same pump, police said.

Police say Williams was fueling his vehicle and intended to fill 11 additional five-gallon containers in the back of his SUV, when the officer pulled into the lot and scared him off.

When he fled, Williams forgot to remove the gas nozzle, which snapped off at the hose from the pump as he drove away, police said.

Williams was also charged with misdemeanor criminal damage for the damage he caused to the gasoline pump.

Police say they have not yet identified “Mike the gas man,” who remains at large.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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